The reigning championship team from the University of California at Berkeley beat the University of California at Irvine in the collegiate Overwatch championship game held at ASU on Feb. 17.
Through its Tespa collegiate esports division, Blizzard Entertainment partnered with the Fiesta Bowl organization to host esports matches for the first time in the bowl's 47-year history.
Before the final match, ASU defeated the University of Arizona in an exhibition match. Though the number of attendees was smaller than at a traditional Sun Devil sports event, ASU fans shouted “defense!” like at a basketball or football game.
The popularity of live esports competitions has increased, especially through streaming services such as Twitch. More than 2,000 people tuned in live to watch the stream of the Overwatch championship, and people continued to watch it even after.
The Feb. 17 championship match concluded the second annual Tespa Collegiate Series. More than 300 teams participated in the series leading up to the championship.
Collegiate esports is still in its infancy and is dominated by schools that recognized the popularity of esports early.
The majority of scholarship opportunities for collegiate esports players come from the leagues they participate in. However, schools like UC Irvine are starting to offer athletic scholarships for esports players.
Sameer Zahir, a junior studying computer information systems and a member of the ASU collegiate Overwatch team, said he hopes the school will start giving the team more support.
“I think we have a chance at the championship (next year). We’ve been practicing with some of the best teams,” Zahir said.
Esports culture is changing in other ways too. On Feb. 14, the Overwatch League team Shanghai Dragons announced that it signed 19-year-old pro player Kim Se-Yeon, making her the first woman to play in the league.
Donnie Kim, a sophomore studying studio art at UA, said she is proud to be able to represent female gamers in a male-dominated scene.
"I've personally been harassed a lot in game through chat. We definitely need more female representation at the professional level," Kim said.
Luc McConnell, a sophomore studying biological sciences and a member of the ASU eSports Association, said esports has a presence in mainstream media but is continuing to grow.
“It’s a growing market. It's only going to get bigger as people who grew up with video games get older,” McConnell said.